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The April Storytellers was once again an opportunity for the BBC to recognise the ANZAC spirit and memories of past wars. Janet Bagnall kindly volunteered to present the story relating back to her great-great-grandfather who came to Australia after the Crimean War.
In keeping with our theme Janet told the tale of early Australia – The Charge of the Light Brigade, hunts for Ned Kelly, a pub in northern Victoria and her family’s settling on the land in the Riverina all linking back to her great-great-grandfather Draper from the Crimean War.
Janet dedicated her presentation in memory of George Franki who assisted in the research and was such a presence in encouraging BBC members to find out about their ancestors’ military history. This year will be the first ANZAC Day we didn’t have George with us.
Thanks also to the members of the A Cappella group for coming to sing songs associated with wars. For a short time, George came and sang with the group when they first formed a few years ago and he came along when he could.
Janet set the scene by playing a recording of Peter Sculthorpe’s composition ‘Small Town’ which was inspired by a passage from the D H Lawrence book Kangaroo. It’s the description of the main street in a small country town, Thirroul. Like so many country towns, near the town centre there will be the cenotaph as a focus, with the names of those who served in the world wars and often also those who served in other wars Australia has fought in. The smaller the town the more obvious is the war memorial and quite often there will be the names of many members from the same family.
Janet showed several photographs including one of Alexander Winston Draper’s memorial at Nathalia, a small town in northern Victoria near Echuca. It was the first monument to be built in the main street (beside the big water tower) and honoured Janet’s great-great-uncle who died in the Boer War. Monuments to the First and Second World Wars were added near it subsequently. Continue reading
The March Storytellers took awhile to eventuate but was really worthwhile on the night. John Mather first suggested that Lisa Scamps and her sister present the story of their father at Storytellers way back in May 2016. Then through all manner of reasons (people living their lives) it wasn’t until this meeting that it all came together, and we heard about their father’s story as a doctor on the Burma-Thailand Railway and in particular at ” Cholera Hill “. The timing was perfect as we were able to arrange for Christopher Deane, Jenny Hole and Jimmy Arnold to follow with their talk about their 2017 trek to North Borneo following in the steps of the 1945 Death Marches.
The accounts presented by Lisa, Virginia and Marc and then Chris, Jenny and Jimmy are riveting and full of detail, far too much to include in these Minutes, but I’m sure they could be provided upon request. As a result, certain snippets have been included as follows:
Lisa and Virginia’s story was titled “Lloyd’s war….Malaya, Singapore and the Burma Thailand Railway and what he didn’t tell us”.
They began with some background on their father Richard Lloyd Cahill. He was the eldest of 6 children to Doctor Arthur Cahill and his wife Florence. He studied Medicine and Sydney University and prior to joining the forces he was a resident doctor at St. Vincent’s Hospital. In February this year they, the Cahill family and partners were fortunate enough to embark on a private historical war tour learning all about what their father was up to during the war. The highly acclaimed War Historian – Lynette Silver was kind enough to organise and take them on this extraordinary journey.
Lisa spoke of how their journey came about:
“My first meeting with Lynette was at a coffee shop. I had in my possession some very precious POW letters that belonged to Dad along with Wartime photos. I showed her the first photo and said this was dad in Singapore I think at Raffles, where he was stationed before the fall of Singapore. Lynette very promptly said “No it’s not, this was taken by the Women’ Weekly back in 1941 in Malaya”. My hackles went up and I thought this woman has no idea about my father (how wrong was I). Anyway, I went home and told Virginia and we both agreed that was ludicrous and she had it all wrong. Despite this Marc (Lisa’s husband) assured me she knew her stuff and to bear with it and we should all make the pilgrimage. Apart from anything we as a family with partners had never been away together. So, we all agreed to go.”
Lisa explained how that Lynette was soon to realise as a group we were totally uninformed. Whilst they knew he had a remarkable war history in Singapore and the Burma-Thailand Railway, they soon discovered that unbeknown to any of them, Lloyd had spent nearly 12 months in Malaya, before fighting and retreating to Singapore and then being captured when Singapore fell on the 15th February 1942. Continue reading
The Storytellers for 2018 began with a presentation by Jacqueline Dwyer – member and mother of Dominic Dwyer, who spoke about her book Flanders in Australia: A Personal History of Wool and War.
There were more than 60 members and friends in attendance to listen to Jacqueline being interviewed by her son Dominic. It was especially pleasing to see Francoise Gilroy present with her daughters and her brother Xavier Droulers, the son of Jean Droulers, who was also a wool buyer, Xavier worked in New Zealand and in France. His wife is French. A large contingent of Parmentier family joined in the fun too. Quite the French connection!Jacqueline told a fascinating story about her father Jacques and the background to the wool buyers and Wool Exchange in Australia, accompanied by many family photographs. An early edition of the book Flanders in Australia was released in 1998. based on Jacques’s diaries and letters to his brothers and sisters back in Australia written whilst he was serving as a French soldier in the trenches during WW1, all surprisingly in English. The trigger for writing the first edition was a school essay being undertaken by son James on WW1 using material from the diaries and letters which prompted Jacqueline to realise what treasures they were and how they needed to be preserved. Strangely enough the material had been secreted away and Jacqueline never sighted them until her father had passed away. Jacqueline returned to university to further her research encouraged greatly by dear George Franki and soon had enough material to do a thesis. Jacqueline considers the new edition of Flanders in Australia as far more detailed and thoughtful. Continue reading
The Storytellers has a great record of very large attendance over the years particularly for the November meetings. Perhaps it’s due to being the last meeting for the year, summer nearly upon us, thoughts turning to the Summer of Fun or just plain wonderful storytellers):
2011 – Forbes (& Ursula) Carlile – “Sydney – Cradle of Australian Swimming”
2012 – John Coates – The Olympic Family
2013 – Ian Heads and Gary Lester – BBC Centenary Book
2013 – Jimmy Arnold, Jenny Hole, Cathy Mackay, Karen Panaretto – The famous Manhattan Island swim (some 46kms) on 10th August 2013
2014 – Jon Attwater, Jack Stening – The Three Sieges of Malta, By the Turks in 1565, By the Axis Powers during WWII, By BBC swimmers in 2014
2015 – Lauren Elder – Surf Lifesaving in Vietnam
2015 – Jon Attwater – Pictorial journey of Sicily
2016 – Lucas Webb – Film Industry
2016 – Jon Henricks – Gold Medals & Lane 4
As the convenor there is nothing better to wrap-up a year of stories than with a full house which is exactly what happened at the November 2017 meeting. We knew we were in for a big night when about 40 members and friends arrived for the pre-meeting BYO BBQ. As the top room started to fill there was much scrambling to bring up extra chairs from downstairs. In the end it was standing room only with over one hundred people in attendance keen to learn more about popular club identities Louise Stevenson and Doug Sturrock as they were interviewed by Kieran “Parkinson” Kelly. The focus was on their yachting backgrounds, achievements and stories which under normal circumstances they would be too modest to tell. Continue reading